Net-zero target must not be left up to one ministry, climate advisers warn

Written by Beckie Smith on 18 December 2019 in News
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Government told to "get its house in order" on climate change

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The responsibility for tackling climate change must not be limited to any one Whitehall department, the government’s independent climate advisers have said in a letter urging the prime minister to get the UK “on track” to meet its net-zero emissions target.

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, and Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, have written to Boris Johnson today telling him to “seize [the] opportunity” of having a freshly-elected majority government to implement measures that will protect the environment.

The letter was published amid rumours that Johnson was planning to re-establish the Department for Energy and Climate Change, which was absorbed into the business department in 2016.


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“Were you to decide to make changes to the form and structure of government, we trust that you recognise that climate change is not an issue that can be owned by any single minister or ministry,” the advisers wrote.

“It requires strong leadership at the heart of government, implementation of climate policies across government, and a programme of change at a scale not previously attempted. 2019 established broad public, business, and political support for action; 2020 needs to be the year of renewed policy implementation in response.”

The letter welcomed Johnson’s commitment to chair a cross-cabinet committee on climate change, and said this group must lead the government’s strategy to reduce emissions – “demanding ambitious policy from all departments to ensure homes, businesses, industry, transport and land are helping to deliver net zero.”

It must also “ensure all departments are prioritising action to adapt to climate change”, the CCC said, echoing its previous calls to adopt a net-zero policy “across all levels and departments of government”.

Other priorities the cabinet committee must address include ensuring a Treasury review of funding to support the net-zero goal identifies ways “fully and fairly to pay for the transition”, it said, as well as injecting “new urgency” into policymaking and delivery.

“It has been nearly seven months since the net-zero target became law. Every day of inaction makes the challenge of cutting emissions harder and costlier,” the advisers warned.

They identified five critical areas the government should focus on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions: buildings, transport, electricity, industry and land use and agriculture.

“In this parliament, the UK must get on track to delivering net-zero emissions, and adapt to the climate-related changes we are experiencing,” they wrote.

“We have a unique opportunity to define the 2020s as the decade of delivery against legally-binding targets set by parliament – meeting the ambitions of the Conservative election manifesto.”

The advisers wrote that Johnson has the opportunity to “lead a better international effort” to tackle climate change than his predecessors.

“But first, we must get our own house in order,” they said.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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